Retired Swiss star Fabian Cancellara has cast doubt over the fate and format of this year’s grand tours.
With coronavirus shuttering all racing through to June 1, Tour de France organizers contemplating pushing their race back by one month, while the Giro d’Italia is still looking to find a slot in the schedule later in the year. Race organizers and governing bodies are scratching heads trying to piece together a late-season calendar.
The news this week that Tour organizers ASO are considering moving their grand depart back to late July symbolizes a possible lifeline for the race. However, Cancellara — whose palmares includes seven Tour stage wins, and nearly 30 days in the yellow jersey — questions the ability for riders and fans to actually travel to the event as the coronavirus crisis continues to evolve and extend.
“But even if they [ASO] say they can do it, what’s with the other bike riders? They are home. They have certain regulations,” Cancellara said Wednesday. “Can people travel? Do they allow them to travel?
“Cycling is not just a French race of French people on the Tour de France. Cycling is a global sport. So, people from Spain, Portugal, people from Italy, from Austria, Germany, from Belgium, from Switzerland, Holland, from Denmark, from Norway, cycling is from everywhere,” Cancellara told Stats Perform. “That’s why I’m quite curious how this is going to be managed.”
ASO has set a mid-May deadline for confirming the dates and format of the Tour as they consider the logistical possibilities and monitor the development of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What will come? They have potential possibilities — I think the start at the end of July, and then finish off August 16,” Cancellara said. “But in the end, no one knows what is in two months and what is good that day.
“They said they will wait until the middle of May, which is still a month to go. In one month, a lot of things can happen, a lot of new regulations might come.”
And just as the ASO is grappling with how to save the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia organizers RCS are looking to shoehorn their three-week race into a calendar which could extend through November.
“And the Giro, of course, if you look at the calendar, if from August things will go on slightly, then I don’t know where is the space,” Cancellara said. “Who will make the space? So, what will be is we have the regulation routes, the political aspect.”
The UCI has already stated that the monuments, grand tours and races still able to honor their start dates will be given priority in the re-scheduling push. Slotting together the calendar will be a complex puzzle involving a huge host of financial, logistical, and administrative pieces.
“We have to see the economic situation towards all those races,” Cancellara said. “There is a calendar and you just can’t cancel or [make] too many changes of the calendar because all the other events that are being held in August, September, October, they have fixed dates.”
Directors of the Vuelta a España have already stated their intention to stick to their current race dates rather than shifting to allow room for others. The Tour of Flanders offered a backup plan this week, with organizers of the Primus Classic stating they would be willing to sacrifice their start slot for De Ronde. But that will not be the case for all the races — no matter how prestigious they are.